Five Best Friday Columns

Nussaibah Younis on the Iraqi prime minister, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry on how to think about retirement, Marco Rubio on immigration reform, Jodi Jacobson on a "Gosnell Amendment," and Keguro Macharia on giving up.

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Nussaibah Younis in The New York Times on the Iraqi prime minister "Nobody wants another civil war in Iraq, yet events are propelling it in that direction," writes Nussaibah Younis. "War can be averted only by a new political understanding among three main groups — Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds — but Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has become too divisive to deliver it." Younis highlights how Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, has fractured Iraq: "He has resisted integrating Sunnis into the army. He has accused senior Sunni politicians of being terrorists, hounded them from power and lost the cooperation of the Sunni community. The result: the political bargain that had sustained the fragile Iraqi state broke down." It will require the cooperation of surrounding countries and the U.S., she says, to deliver Maliki from power: "If all of these countries could persuade Mr. Maliki to resign, it would give moderate Sunnis a symbolic victory and dampen extremist influence in their community. That, in turn, could show all Iraqis that change can be achieved through politics, rather than war." But U.S. involvement — and rhetoric — must be measured, argues Rosa Brook at Foreign Policy. "In general, U.S. diplomats treat foreign states and leaders like badly behaved toddlers. True, they often deserve it — but ... that's not the point. The point is to advance our interests, defuse potentially dangerous conflicts, and dissuade others from engaging in brinksmanship."

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry at Forbes on how to think about retirement How should we think about retirement? Should we place any value on it at all? "Retirement as a cultural concept needs to go away," says Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, who considers retirement a relic of the Industrial Revolution: "If 'work' for most people is toil at a factory for X decades until they just can’t physically do it anymore, and once they can't their family can't take care of them because the'’re all also working at the factory, then some sort of retirement-centered government safety net makes sense. ... These conditions no longer obtain today. In the rich world (which is the place where pensions are an issue), work is increasingly cognitive, and even in occupations which are not cognitively based, work is much less physically taxing than it was in the late 19th century." At the same time, we need to check our nostalgia, explains Morgan Housel at The Motley Fool: "The nostalgic sense of America's golden era of retirement is set between the 1950s and the 1990s. That, we often hear, is when workers had pensions and were able to retire with security. But as much as twice the percentage of men were still working into their elderly years back then compared with today."

Marco Rubio at The Wall Street Journal on immigration reform Marco Rubio, the current man-in-the-arena of the Republican Party, considers immigration the next big threat to American society: "I ran for office because I want to solve problems, and America has a very serious immigration problem. I took on this difficult issue, despite the political risk it entails, because fixing immigration is essential for the nation's security, is good for job creation and has always helped separate America from the rest of the world. What we have now is a disaster. It threatens our security, sovereignty and economy." And he has a message for his colleagues: "Conservatism has always been about reforming government and solving problems, and that's why the conservative movement should lead on immigration reform." Here at The Atlantic Wire, Elspeth Reeve considers all the people Rubio is and isn't trying to please, but David Catanese at The Daily Beast says he "has every reason to play nice," especially in terms of freshman Senator Ted Cruz's campaign to undo bipartisan immigration reform: "His playbook throughout the fight has been to engage critics and their concerns constructively—a concerted effort to slowly win, or at least placate, the hearts and minds of the conservative commentariat. There's no advantage to getting into a public knife fight with the pugnacious and self-assured Cruz."

Jodi Jacobson at RH Reality Check on a "Gosnell Amendment" Jodi Jacobson addresses the argument that the criminal trial against abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell ought to necessitate a constitutional amendment banning federal funding of late-term abortions — or state-specific bans on late-term abortions altogether. "The inconvenient truth here is that the very policies anti-choicers espouse are the ones that create the conditions in which Gosnells thrive: limiting access to safe abortion care by closing clinics, driving up the costs, requiring women to go through innumerable unnecessary hoops to secure an abortion and driving them later in the process; denying women living in poverty public support for safe abortion care," she argues. "All of these and other policies espoused by anti-choicers drive women to desperate circumstances, as a trip to any number of countries with high rates of maternal mortality from complications of unsafe abortion will tell you." Meanwhile Jennifer Rubin, whom Jacobson addresses head-on, is confused by the lack of political movement on behalf of Gosnell: "After Newtown, the president spoke to the nation and launched a campaign for gun control. He ultimately failed but there was a tragic event, a political response and a result. As for the Kermit Gosnell trial, there has been virtually no political response to the horrors described in the grand jury report."

Keguro Macharia at The New Inquiry on giving up "A tenure track job at a research university is the goal, the promise, especially if one receives a degree from a research university. It demonstrates that despite all obstacles, 'the system works.' We need to believe this desperately. Absolutely. Without questioning," writes Keguro Macharia before he investigates his experience as black graduate student in the humanities: "I was tired of the banal and uncomprehending racism of white students who spoke of blacks as 'they' and 'them' and complained about 'their broken English' and 'bad dialect' ... I was tired of being invited to be 'post-black' as the token African, so not 'tainted' by the afterlife of slavery; I was tired of performing a psychic labor that left me too exhausted to do anything except go home, crawl into bed, try to recover, and prepare for the next series of assaults." At The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jocelyn Dawson adds, "Many people who care deeply about teaching, research, and writing find it difficult to believe that they could satisfy those passions in a career outside the academy. ... Leaving the academic world doesn't mean selling out, forsaking your intellectual values, pursuing projects you don't feel passionate about, or competing for corporate bonuses."

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